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Monday, July 2, 2012

SoftBank-Kyocera solar plant gets off to soggy start amid downpour in Kyoto

Staff writer

KYOTO — The largest mega-solar project in Kyoto Prefecture was inaugurated Sunday, the same day a feed-in tariff for renewable energies took effect and just hours before the Oi nuclear plant was set to resume operations.

News photo
Power thirsty: A giant solar power plant that began operating in Kyoto on Sunday is seen from above on June 23. KYODO

The first of the project's two solar power facilities, built in a joint venture between SoftBank group's SB Energy Corp. and the Kyocera group, began operations later in the day. The second facility is scheduled to go online in September, and each is expected to generate 2.1 megawatts. When both are up and running, their combined capacity will be enough to power around 1,000 households, SB Energy said.

The ceremony took place in a downpour, prompting SoftBank Corp. President and CEO Masayoshi Son to note that the weather proves Japan needs a mix of renewable energy sources.

"When it's raining, hydropower would be an appropriate energy source. When it's windy, you can rely on wind power, and geothermal energy can be used at other times," he said.

Noting the project was being initiated in the home of the Kyoto Protocol and on the day that the Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture was scheduled for reactivation, Son said critics of renewable energies need to take a long-term view and weigh the future costs of conventional electricity generation, especially nuclear power.

"After 40 years of operating a nuclear power plant, there are a lot of problems left over if you shut it down, especially nuclear waste," Son said. "Thus, over the long run, renewable energy sources are actually the cheapest forms of electricity."

Seishu Makino, senior vice minister at the industry ministry, also attended the ceremony.

"We hope the introduction of the system will mean a new business model and the entrance of new players into the renewable energy sector," Makino said before heading to the Oi power station for the restart of reactor 3 later in the day.

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